Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Atlas Shrugged

I have not read this book yet, but it's next in my queue after "The Real George Washington", which is next.

That being said, a lovely lady on my Classical Homeschooling list posted this excerpt; her feeling was that not everyone will want to pick up a nearly 1000 page book, but that this excerpt was important. I agree, so I'm posting it here.

If anyone is interested in reading along with me, let me know, and we can pick a start date, I'm sure George won't mind waiting :)

Rearden heard Bertram Scudder, outside the group, say to a girl who made
some sound of indignation, "Don't let him disturb you. You know, money is
the root of all evil—and he's the typical product of money."

Rearden did not think that Francisco could have heard it, but he saw
Francisco turning to them with a gravely courteous smile.

"So you think that money is the root of all evil?" said Francisco d'Aconia.
"Have you ever asked what is the root of money? Money is a tool of exchange,
which can't exist unless there are goods produced and men able to produce
them. Money is the material shape of the principle that men who wish to deal
with one another must deal by trade and give value for value. Money is not
the tool of the moochers, who claim your product by tears, or of the
looters, who take it from you by force. Money is made possible only by the
men who produce. Is this what you consider evil?

"When you accept money in payment for your effort, you do so only on the
conviction that you will exchange it for the product of the effort of
others. It is not the moochers or the looters who give value to money. Not
an ocean of tears nor all the guns in the world can transform those pieces
of paper in your wallet into the bread you will need to survive tomorrow.
Those pieces of paper, which should have been gold, are a token of honor—
your claim upon the energy of the men who produce. Your wallet is your
statement of hope that somewhere in the world around you there are men who
will not default on that moral principle which is the root of money. Is this
what you consider evil?

"Have you ever looked for the root of production? Take a look at an electric
generator and dare tell yourself that it was created by the muscular effort
of unthinking brutes. Try to grow a seed of wheat without the knowledge left
to you by men who had to discover it for the first time. Try to obtain your
food by means of nothing but physical motions—and you'll learn that man's
mind is the root of all the goods produced and of all the wealth that has
ever existed on earth.

"But you say that money is made by the strong at the expense of the weak?
What strength do you mean? It is not the strength of guns or muscles. Wealth
is the product of man's capacity to think. Then is money made by the man who
invents a motor at the expense of those who did not invent it? Is money made
by the intelligent at the expense of the fools? By the able at the expense
of the incompetent? By the ambitious at the expense of the lazy? Money is
MADE—before it can be looted or mooched—made by the effort of every honest
man, each to the extent of his ability. An honest man is one who knows that
he can't consume more than he has produced.

"To trade by means of money is the code of the men of good will. Money rests
on the axiom that every man is the owner of his mind and his effort. Money
allows no power to prescribe the value of your effort except by the
voluntary choice of the man who is willing to trade you his effort in
return. Money permits you to obtain for your goods and your labor that which
they are worth to the men who buy them, but no more. Money permits no deals
except those to mutual benefit by the unforced judgment of the traders.
Money demands of you the recognition that men must work for their own
benefit, not for their own injury, for their gain, not their loss—the
recognition that they are not beasts of burden, born to carry the weight of
your misery—that you must offer them values, not wounds—that the common bond
among men is not the exchange of suffering, but the exchange of GOODS. Money
demands that you sell, not your weakness to men's stupidity, but your talent
to their reason; it demands that you buy, not the shoddiest they offer, but
the best your money can find. And when men live by trade—with reason, not
force, as their final arbiter—it is the best product that wins, the best
performance, then man of best judgment and highest ability—and the degree of
a man's productiveness is the degree of his reward. This is the code of
existence whose tool and symbol is money. Is this what you consider evil?

"But money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will
not replace you as the driver. It will give you the means for the
satisfaction of your desires, but it will not provide you with desires.
Money is the scourge of the men who attempt to reverse the law of
causality—the men who seek to replace the mind by seizing the products of
the mind.

"Money will not purchase happiness for the man who has no concept of what he
wants; money will not give him a code of values, if he's evaded the
knowledge of what to value, and it will not provide him with a purpose, if
he's evaded the choice of what to seek. Money will not buy intelligence for
the fool, or admiration for the coward, or respect for the incompetent. The
man who attempts to purchase the brains of his superiors to serve him, with
his money replacing his judgment, ends up by becoming the victim of his
inferiors. The men of intelligence desert him, but the cheats and the frauds
come flocking to him, drawn by a law which he has not discovered: that no
man may be smaller than his money. Is this the reason why you call it evil?

"Only the man who does not need it, is fit to inherit wealth—the man who
would make his own fortune no matter where he started. If an heir is equal
to his money, it serves him; if not, it destroys him. But you look on and
you cry that money corrupted him. Did it? Or did he corrupt his money? Do
not envy a worthless heir; his wealth is not yours and you would have done
no better with it. Do not think that it should have been distributed among
you; loading the world with fifty parasites instead of one, would not bring
back the dead virtue which was the fortune. Money is a living power that
dies without its root. Money will not serve that mind that cannot match it.
Is this the reason why you call it evil?

"Money is your means of survival. The verdict which you pronounce upon the
source of your livelihood is the verdict you pronounce upon your life. If
the source is corrupt, you have damned your own existence. Did you get your
money by fraud? By pandering to men's vices or men's stupidity? By catering
to fools, in the hope of getting more than your ability deserves? By
lowering your standards? By doing work you despise for purchasers you scorn?
If so, then your money will not give you a moment's or a penny's worth of
joy. Then all the things you buy will become, not a tribute to you, but a
reproach; not an achievement, but a reminder of shame. Then you'll scream
that money is evil. Evil, because it would not pinch-hit for your
self-respect? Evil, because it would not let you enjoy your depravity? Is
this the root of your hatred of money?

"Money will always remain an effect and refuse to replace you as the cause.
Money is the product of virtue, but it will not give you virtue and it will
not redeem your vices. Money will not give you the unearned, neither in
matter nor in spirit. Is this the root of your hatred of money?

"Or did you say it's the LOVE of money that's the root of all evil? To love
a thing is to know and love its nature. To love money is to know and love
the fact that money is the creation of the best power within you, and your
passkey to trade your effort for the effort of the best among men. It's the
person who would sell his soul for a nickel, who is the loudest in
proclaiming his hatred of money—and he has good reason to hate it. The
lovers of money are willing to work for it. They know they are able to
deserve it."

"Let me give you a tip on a clue to men's characters: the man who damns
money has obtained it dishonorably; the man who respects it has earned it.

"Run for your life from any man who tells you that money is evil. That
sentence is the leper's bell of an approaching looter. So long as men live
together on earth and need means to deal with one another—their only
substitute, if they abandon money, is the muzzle of a gun.

"But money demands of you the highest virtues, if you wish to make it or to
keep it. Men who have no courage, pride, or self-esteem, men who have no
moral sense of their right to their money and are not willing to defend it
as they defend their life, men who apologize for being rich—will not remain
rich for long. They are the natural bait for the swarms of looters that stay
under rocks for centuries, but come crawling out at the first smell of a man
who begs to be forgiven for the guilt of owning wealth. They will hasten to
relieve him of the guilt—and of his life, as he deserves.

"Then you will see the rise of the double standard—the men who live by
force, yet count on those who live by trade to create the value of their
looted money—the men who are the hitchhikers of virtue. In a moral society,
these are the criminals, and the statutes are written to protect you against
them. But when a society establishes criminals-by-right and
looters-by-law—men who use force to seize the wealth of DISARMED
victims—then money becomes its creators' avenger. Such looters believe it
safe to rob defenseless men, once they've passed a law to disarm them. But
their loot becomes the magnet for other looters, who get it from them as
they got it. Then the race goes, not to the ablest at production, but to
those most ruthless at brutality. When force is the standard, the murderer
wins over the pickpocket. And then that society vanishes, in a spread of
ruins and slaughter.

"Do you wish to know whether that day is coming? Watch money. Money is the
barometer of a society's virtue. When you see that trading is done, not by
consent, but by compulsion—when you see that in order to produce, you need
to obtain permission from men who produce nothing—when you see that money is
flowing to those who deal, not in goods, but in favors—when you see that men
get richer by graft and by pull than by work, and your laws don't protect
you against them, but protect them against you—when you see corruption being
rewarded and honesty becoming a self-sacrifice—you may know that your
society is doomed. Money is so noble a medium that it does not compete with
guns and it does not make terms with brutality. It will not permit a country
to survive as half-property, half-loot.

"Whenever destroyers appear among men, they start by destroying money, for
money is men's protection and the base of a moral existence. Destroyers
seize gold and leave to its owners a counterfeit pile of paper. This kills
all objective standards and delivers men into the arbitrary power of an
arbitrary setter of values. Gold was an objective value, an equivalent of
wealth produced. Paper is a mortgage on wealth that does not exist, backed
by a gun aimed at those who are expected to produce it. Paper is a check
drawn by legal looters upon an account which is not theirs: upon the virtue
of the victims. Watch for the day when it becomes, marked: 'Account

"When you have made evil the means of survival, do not expect men to remain
good. Do not expect them to stay moral and lose their lives for the purpose
of becoming the fodder of the immoral. Do not expect them to produce, when
production is punished and looting rewarded. Do not ask, 'Who is destroying
the world?' You are.

"You stand in the midst of the greatest achievements of the greatest
productive civilization and you wonder why it's crumbling around you, while
your damning its life-blood—money. You look upon money as the savages did
before you, and you wonder why the jungle is creeping back to the edge of
your cities. Throughout men's history, money was always seized by looters of
one brand or another, but whose method remained the same: to seize wealth by
force and to keep the producers bound, demeaned, defamed, deprived of honor.
That phrase about the evil of money, which you mouth with such righteous
recklessness, comes from a time when wealth was produced by the labor of
slaves—slaves who repeated the motions once discovered by some body's mind
and left unimproved for centuries. So long as production was ruled by force,
and wealth was obtained by conquest, there was little to conquer. Yet
through all the centuries of stagnation and starvation, men exalted the
looters, as aristocrats of the sword, as aristocrats of birth, as
aristocrats of the bureau, and despised the producers, as slaves, as
traders, as shopkeepers—as industrialists.

"To the glory of mankind, there was, for the first and only time in history,
a COUNTRY OF MONEY—and I have no higher, more reverent tribute to pay to
America, for this means: a country of reason, justice, freedom, production,
achievement. For the first time, man's mind and money were set free, and
there were no fortunes-by-conquest, but only fortunes-by-work, and instead
of swordsmen and slaves, there appeared the real maker of wealth, the
greatest worker, the highest type of human being—the self-made man—the
American industrialist.

"If you ask me to name the proudest distinction of Americans, I would
choose—because it contains all the others—the fact that they were the people
who created the phrase 'to MAKE money.' No other language or nation had ever
used these words before; men had always thought of wealth as a static
quantity—to be seized, begged, inherited, shared, looted, or obtained as a
favor. Americans were the first to understand that wealth has to be created.
The words 'to make money' hold the essence of human morality.

"Yet these were the words for which Americans were denounced by the rotted
cultures of the looters' continents. Now the looters' credo has brought you
to regard your proudest achievements as a hallmark of shame, your prosperity
as guilt, your greatest men, the industrialists, as blackguards, and your
magnificent factories as the product and property of muscular labor, the
labor of whip-driven slaves, like the pyramids of Egypt. The rotter who
simpers that he sees no difference between the power of the dollar and the
power of the whip, ought to learn the difference on his own hide-as, I
think, he will.

"Until and unless you discover that money is the root of all good, you ask
for your own destruction. When money ceases to be the tool by which men deal
with one another, then men become the tools of men. Blood, whips and guns—or
dollars. Take your choice—there is no other—and your time is running out."

by Ayn Rand


Bitmap said...

I think Atlas Shrugged is well worth the effort for anyone. If it were required reading in government schools then this nation wouldn't be in the sad shape it is.

Some people may have heartburn with the fact the Ayn Rand was an atheist or that one of the good guys in the book cheats on his wife and that the heroine has a number of quickies with a variety of different men.

More people will probably get tired of reading before they are done. Stay the course. It is worth finishing.

Ritsumei said...

Interesting. I've heard a lot of negative reviews of this book, but this excerpt made me think, and it made sense in a lot of ways. Very interesting. I may have to give this book a chance after all.

Tori said...

I agree with: "Whenever destroyers appear among men, they start by destroying money, for money is men's protection and the base of a moral existence." And believe this is what Obama's goal is, truly.

I disagree with this: "When money ceases to be the tool by which men deal with one another, then men become the tools of men. Blood, whips and guns—or dollars. Take your choice—there is no other—and your time is running out." because I believe that trade and barter are effective and appropriate as long as parties involved will be honest about perceived value in giving AND receiving.

I've been faced with this recently. My eldest daughter has been taking piano lessons from a lady nearby. I've been teaching her how to cut her husband's hair and giving her copies of my husband's recipes (he is a Chef and these are recipes we would like to use to create a cook book to sell at some point in the future). Anyway... it became obvious to me, recently, that her perception of the received value of our "payment" for the service of piano lessons has not been the same as our perception of value in the giving. Open communication is the solution, not ONLY money. IMHO, anyway. :)

(Oh, I'm in one of your homeschool groups. LDS one.)

Anonymous said...

hello again. this is a good read, but has plenty of gratuitous sex and other immoral premises. it can drag a bit as well but i did enjoy it when finished. i actual like the fountainhead better. and by the way, you can get it in audio format at most libraries if you think that would be easier to finish in a timely manner!


Jeannetta said...

Hi again Gabrielle :)
I'm wondering if I can skip the immorality part, if it doesn't add much to the story if I skip a ahead a page or so will it ruin the story? I don't want to be reading smut. :)
Tori, I see what you are saying, but I'm not really sure that's what the author had in mind. I'll let you know when I finish the book--it's 1000 + pages, so it will be a while :D

Anonymous said...

its not super graphic or with long passages of love scenes, but yeah superfluous to the plot and easily skiped over IMO.


Jeannetta said...

Excellent, thank you!